I've heard rumours China is working with India to open up their airspace for a direct routing from Western China into Indian airspace. This will cut the flight time down even further and bypass Pakistan. Yes the airspace between China & India in disputed territories is being opened to cut down the flight time for AI & UA.
This new route has been a high priority since 2013
What's the holdup? 6 years and still no route.
Mind you, even if crossing the Himalayan plateau takes no more than a few hours, it's still a long time to be stuck at 23-24,000 feet in the event of a depressurization. Could be that's why China is so reluctant to open up the route.
Airlines need approval for polar operations. Seems AI wasn’t approved for it, until now. Both the DGCA and FAA seem to have given approval, based on the article provided by the OP.
It’s more than just availability of ETOPS alternates. The following is a good read on the subject:http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeroma ... story.html
That article you have quoted is so very old that I would not rely on much of it and it application to this AI subject is minimal, at best.
It's old, but the information in it is still very much relevant, particularly when it comes to airline training, fuel freeze strategy, MEL, COM capability and recovery plan at diversion alternates.
North American and East Asian carriers have been flying cross polar for 20 years now. Plenty of Russian alternates have opened up during that time to enable them to do so. The fact that AI hasn't flown polar until Aug 15 2019 tells me it's more than just new alternates, but other requirements and training that i listed above as well.
us Air Traffic Controllers have a good record, we haven't left one up there yet !!